No expectations and great expectations.

No expectations and great expectations.

This is the dual approach Virginia-based modern rockers Mae have taken to chart a course through the brave new (almost) post-record-label world of the music business.

Drummer Jacob Marshall admitted his band chased hit records.

"We ended up finding that standards of success were being defined by other people and were all based on numbers," Marshall told The Beat.

While this might sound like a standard lament from a band that once found itself on a major record label, Marshall added this admission.

"We thought maybe we'd been as 'commercially' successful as we could be," he said. "At heart, we had a desire to change our standards of success."

Big ideas for a rock 'n' roll band, but not out of character for Mae -- which stands for Multisensory Aesthetic Experience -- for which even the band name was an exercise in big thinking.

"We thought ahead to the moment in our career when we would be looking back and thinking what we would be proud of," Marshall said. "And we came up with kind of a wild plan."

First, great expectations.

The band would release one song a month for a year, offer it free to stream on its Web site ( but also make it available to purchase and download. Funds generated through this would be invested in different charitable projects, starting with the hope of building a home through Habitat for Humanity in the band's hometown.

"We raised $65,000," Marshall said. "We couldn't believe it happened. We even worked on the house. Something like this is so much greater than we are."

Habitat was the project for the first four months of 2009. The band is working with to fund teacher/classroom requests in each of the cities Mae plays.

"Change on a large scale," Marshall explained, "happens in small increments."

At the same time, no expectations.

Making one new song a month, Marshall explained, allowed the band to live creatively from one moment to the next.

"We wanted to feel as free as possible to create music in the same spirit as we made our first record in, back when there were no expectations," he said. "What has emerged is something that's connecting with our fan base."

Presented with the notion that selling your music and giving the money to charity isn't the best way to pay the bills, Marshall turned matter-of-fact.

"In all honesty, this is a tremendous sacrifice for all involved," he said. "But the old way wasn't a great way to pay the bills, either.

"If you get into music and try to make it a career, you're always risking stability. You might as well swing for the fences."

PromoWest Productions is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a party and concert by Bob Dylan Tuesday, Nov. 3 at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion. Read The Beat's interview with founder and president Scott Stienecker online at